skip to content

Did you know that cooperatives can be suitable instruments for research transfer?

November 2019

In a joint project with the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy (IMW) in Leipzig and the Chair for Technology Entrepreneurship at RWTH Aachen, ISS researchers Clemens Schimmele and Johannes Blome-Drees explored ways to utilize cooperative strategies in research transfer. In non-university research institutes like those within the Fraunhofer-, Max-Planck-, Leibniz-, and Helmholtz-Societies, oftentimes innovations are devised whose further development towards practical applications cannot be pursued within the predominant research foci of these institutes. Especially in early phases of the innovation cycle, private investors often shy away from the risks associated with potentials for realizing innovations outside the mainstream. Especially in the case of social innovations with relatively small prospects for financial returns, there are frequently no private investors to be found, so that either the state has to take up these projects, or they are dropped altogether.

To address this problem, the ISS researchers analyzed ways in which cooperative models can contribute to financing and organizing projects and spin-offs in non-university research institutes. Even though cooperatives are currently are marginal phenomenon in the field of non-university research, this analysis shows that there is potential for this situation to change. Cooperatives can create organized networks of potential users of innovations, provided these users are willing to engage in democratic and long-term participation and aim not only at monetary dividends, but primarily at supporting research and utilizing its outcomes in practice. Obvious applications include firstly, companies cooperating to outsource R&D activities and possibly to distribute and/or produce the resulting products. Secondly, cooperatives can be made up of consumers supporting B2C-Innovations that they consider to be of value for themselves or society as a whole. To this end, cooperative funds for financing a number of changing innovations over time are conceivable. Thirdly, cooperatives can be a way for research institutes to cooperate amongst themselves, and lastly, any combination of these actors can be combined within multi-stakeholder cooperatives.